President Biden Doesn’t Have a Voracious Diet for Cable News—But He Regularly Watches Some Shows

From a story on by Max Tani and Alex Thompson headlined “Morning Joe (Biden):

Compared to his predecessor, President JOE BIDEN does not have a voracious diet for cable news. But he still regularly watches some shows; and among them, one in particular stands out.

Multiple people with knowledge of the president’s media consumption habits said he is a regular viewer of MSNBC’s Morning Joe (and, less frequently, CNN’s New Day), which he occasionally has on in the background as he starts his day. A number of the hosts and contributors on the show have years-long relationships with Biden. And he and co-hosts JOE SCARBOROUGH and MIKA BRZEZEISKI have spoken privately on occasion since the 2020 election.

While Morning Joe hasn’t nailed down a one-on-one interview with the president since he took office (very few at any network have), there’s an informal and overt link between the Scarborough/Brzezinski family and the Biden administration. Biden appointed Brezinski’s brother MARK BRZEZINSKI as ambassador to Poland just before the role took on tremendous importance following Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine. (Joe and Mika were on hand when Vice PresidentKAMALA HARRIS swore in Mark).

Mika has also known Biden since she was a kid, when Biden would meet with her father, the well-known former National Security Adviser ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI (Biden received the second Zbigniew Brzezinski Annual Prize awarded by the Center for Strategic and International Studies). On Tuesday night, she’s set to host a live conversation with VAL BIDEN OWENS, the president’s sister and close confidante. It’ll be the second conversation she’s hosted recently with the president’s family. She also hosted a talk with first lady JILL BIDEN late last year as part of Forbes’ 50 over 50 event.

A new book by New York Times reporters ALEX BURNS and JONATHAN MARTIN dubbed Biden a “devout Morning Joe” viewer and reported that Harris sought counsel from Scarborough. A person close to the MSNBC host said he and the veep do not have such a close relationship where she would seek out his advice, though they did briefly see each other during a recent White House visit.

Biden, however, has turned to Morning Joe regulars on occasion. The president considers the program’s frequent guest, MIKE BARNICLE, a friend — a relationship that Barnicle himself described as mutual. “I’ve known the President for a long time and am fortunate to be a friend of his,” he said, stressing that he has not used his ties to Biden to advise him politically.

The Biden campaign also felt that Scarborough gave them fair treatment during the primary campaign, and did not write him off like other political pundits did. Biden himself called Scarborough after the host wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post in February 2020 titled, “No matter how this race ends, I’m proud of Joe Biden,” which published at a moment when it appeared that the vice president could lose the primary.

That doesn’t mean the show has held back in its criticism of Biden. When faced with allegations of sexual assault by former staffer TARA READE during the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden’s team chose a sitdown with Brzezinski to thoroughly address the allegations. The questions were pointed and direct, and one person said the campaign was not pleased with some of them. MSNBC and the White House did not return requests for comment.

The links between the show and the president have occasionally gotten some who appear on the program in hot water.

The historian and author JON MEACHAM was a nearly weekly fixture on the show for years. But after the New York Times reported that he had worked with the Biden team on several presidential speeches without disclosing his work to the network, MSNBC ended Meacham’s contributorship in 2020. He still regularly appears on Morning Joe as a guest.

(An editor of this newsletter and several members of the POLITICO White House team are also part of the Morning Joe extended universe and have often appeared on the show).

Presidents have had close relationships with reporters and television hosts in the past, including in the era of cable news. DONALD TRUMP would seek counsel from a host of Fox News personalities and even had LOU DOBBS call in to White House strategy sessions on occasion.

Likewise, Brzezinski and Scarborough have had ties to politicians beyond Biden. Scarborough was close with the Bush family when he was still a member of Congress (one of the president’s spokespeople, NICOLE WALLACE, eventually became a show regular), and he has also been friendly with former President BILL CLINTON. During the 2016 election, his and Brzezinski’s relationship with Trump came under scrutiny as the then candidate would regularly call into the program for relatively lengthy interviews. That relationship eventually deteriorated into a nasty mess as their coverage of Trump grew increasingly negative and he responded by spreading conspiracies and smears about them.

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